Saving Money on Road Trips

Saving money on food while traveling can get a little difficult. But, here are tricks to help you out.

The first 4 years of my marriage, Troy was an OTR (Over the road truck driver). I spent about 6 months out of the year traveling the highways and bi ways of America. When you are "living on the road" not only can eating out several times a day become very expensive, it also gets very boring.

Some things I learned to do to save money can be applied to just regular traveling. You don't have to be in a Big Rig to use these tips.

**Always keep a cooler with you. You can stop throughout your trip to buy extra ice when you need to.

** Don't waste your space in your cooler with drinks. Keep one bag of ice (or half, whatever) just for cooling down your drinks. Give everyone a travel cup and fill it with the warm drink you packed and add ice.

**You can generally fill your travel mug with ice at a gas station or travel center for free. So, whenever you stop, fill your cup with ice.

**Travel mugs are a must! Most gas stations or Travel Centers will let you refill your own cups at a fraction of the price of buying a cup of something there. Also, I keep one travel cup just for ice water and the Travel Centers (aka truck stops) allow me to refill with ice and water at no charge.

**Carry a couple of cleaned out milk jugs with you. You can refill them with water almost anywhere for free. Milk jugs/juice bottles work the best because they have a good screw on cap.

**If you are a coffee drinker, as I am, bring your thermos with you. Travel Centers will charge a decent reduced price for filling a thermos of coffee. And yes, you can pick up whatever condiments you need for your coffee (cream, sugar, sweetener).

** If you are staying at a hotel, stop and fill your thermos/mugs up before you check in instead of paying for drinks at the hotel. I know most hotels have a little coffee pot in the room, but I need way more morning coffee than just a Styrofoam cup or two.

** Also, if you are staying at a hotel, fill up bags of ice from their ice machines before you head out.

**Pack your own snacks. When those run out, stop at grocery stores not gas stations or convenience stores to purchase more.

**Bring your own cup-a-soups, drink packets, tea bags. You can stop at a Travel Center and get either cold water or hot water for free.

**Keep in your cooler easy to put together lunch items. Stop at Rest Areas and have a picnic lunch.

** A lot of rest areas have grills. You can bring your meats from home (Or whatever you want to grill) and a box of aluminum foil and stop for a much needed break and grill up dinner or lunch. This gives you an opportunity to stretch your legs and relax a bit from driving.

** Have a few fun "park Like" toys tucked away for the kids. When you stop at a rest area to cook a meal, let them wear off some stored up energy throwing balls or frisbees while you prepare the meal.

**Always have a bag of paper plates, napkins, plastic ware, condiment packets, wet wipes with you. I did a post on "to-go bags" HERE

**Check the route ahead of time that you will be driving. Get online and see what cheap/free touristy places there are along the way. Those are great places to stop and have a lunch and do something fun.

** There are many hidden treasures along the highways. With a little bit of planning you would be surprised at what is free or cheap. One of my favorite treasures is on I80 in Wyoming. Stop at "Little America" and get a yummy decent sized soft serve ice cream cone for only .39 cents! Over the years, we have found a lot of little places like this.

**If you do stop at a restaurant, stop for lunch. Prices are cheaper. Always order water, the mark up on soft drinks or iced tea is super high. Split meals with someone. Most good family style restaurants serve really large portions.

** If you have to order a drink, when you get ready to go, ask for a to-go cup of your beverage. Most restaurants do this free. If they don't your not out anything for asking.

** When ordering you meal, think about how that meal will travel if you have leftovers. For example: A spaghetti meal is not going to taste very good cold or be easy to eat. However, a grilled chicken sandwich deluxe, after you eat the fries the sandwich will be tasty later in the car. Many meal selections can actually turn into 2 separate meals.

**Decide ahead of time how much you want to spend and divide that between every member in the family and let them know that this is the absolute most you can spend for your lunch. Stick to your guns!

** Watch for local coupon booklets whenever you stop somewhere. Sometimes they will offer specials for restaurants and hotels. You can often find these booklets at gas stations, travel centers or rest areas.

**If you do a lot of traveling, not just the summer vacation type of car trip, but a lot of traveling, you may want to invest in a cooker. I love this thing! I whipped up some really awesome dishes cooking with this little oven. It is a 12 V lunchbox size oven that you plug into your cigarette lighter. The inside fits the throw away aluminum loaf pans. Here is a picture:It comes with a little cookbook. I used this constantly while traveling. I think to this day Troy will tell you some of his favorite meals came from this little oven!

** There are many different 12 Volt appliances on the market. If you do a lot of traveling take a look at them.

I hope some these ideas will help you keep a little of your hard earned cash in your wallet!

This post is linked to these awesome blogs:

Hooked on Fridays at Hooked on Houses
Frugal Fridays at Life as Mom
Finer Things Friday at Amy's Finer Things
Friday's Family at Homemaker Barbie

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  1. Lots of tips that I will put to use! Thanks for sharing.

  2. Very fine tips. I didn't know there is such a thing as a car cooker. I enjoy truck stops because I get the sense of folks are are serious and experienced travelers.

  3. Excellent tips for travel! We mostly take just short trips with our small children, but car snacks are a must. :)


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